In 2014, the Legislature authorized the Farm Internship Pilot Project in Washington State. This first-of-its-kind program allows interns to work on small farms in select Washington counties. Farm interns learn about farming practices and gain hands-on experience with farming activities. Interns participating in this program are exempt from minimum wage requirements and are not required to be paid. Instead of a wage, they receive education and experience about specific farming activities.
Notice: The Farm Internship Project, written into the Industrial Welfare Act, currently expires on December 31, 2019. Participating farms will receive guidance on what to do starting January 1, 2020.
Farms owners who are interested in participating in this project are encouraged to foster a supportive educational environment for participating interns and some best practices include providing a space for interns to develop and implement experimental techniques for cultivating and harvesting agricultural and horticultural crops.
Farms with annual sales of less than $250,000 per year are eligible to apply to participate in the project, and must be located in one of the following 20 counties:
- San Juan
- Walla Walla
The farm owners must participate in the everyday work and management of the farm and, ideally, farm owners will be working alongside the intern.
Farms must use an approved educational curriculum that teaches interns about farming practices and agricultural knowledge.
How to apply
- Fill out the Application for Farm Internship (F700-158-000).
- Provide a copy of an IRS Schedule F or similar IRS tax form stating the farm's gross sales of the business with your application.
- Attach the educational curriculum the farm will use to provide interns training to your application.
- Send the application and associated materials to the address provided on the application.
- Farms cannot displace an experienced worker with an intern.
- Farm owners must demonstrate that the intern’s duties will compliment, not compete with or negatively affect existing workers on the farm.
- The hiring of an intern cannot create unfair competition with other farms due to a labor cost advantage.
- Farms cannot have more than three interns at a time.
- Farms cannot have a history of serious violations of industrial insurance or Minimum Wage Act requirements.
How to apply
It is up to each farm involved with the Farm Internship Project to advertise their internship opportunities. Internship opportunities can often be found at:
There are many educational opportunities for participating interns. As part of the program, farm owners provide valuable hands-on knowledge of farming and agricultural practices to pass down to a new generation. Interns are provided an approved curriculum from participating farms, giving them a structured education and the ability to put farming theories into practice. You can read some examples of educational resources here:
- Transplanting (sample)
- Weed Management (sample)
- Western Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) Farm Internship Curriculum and Handbook
Wages, compensation, and benefits
Due to the educational nature of the Farm Internship Project, wages are not required for interns. However, participating farms offer other types of compensation, which may include:
- A cash stipend – this is a fixed payment that can be paid daily, weekly, monthly, etc. but is not based on hours worked.
- An hourly wage – farmers can choose to pay interns a wage for the hours they work, but minimum wage laws do not apply.
- Room and board
- A share of the harvest
These wages, stipends, and other benefits may be taxable as income. Interns should consult with a tax professional for additional information.
Although interns are not employees of the farm, they are protected through the workers’ compensation insurance program, if an accident were to happen.